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Board Says Astoria Cove Needs More Affordable Housing

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Astoria Cove, a tower-tastic project planned for the Queens waterfront, met more resistance from the borough's Community Board 1 last night, which voted to deny the proposal unless the developer accepts 47 conditions, including a raise in affordable apartments from 20 percent of the project to 35 percent. The unanimously passed set of conditions now gets passed on as recommendations to the borough president in the next rung of the land use review procedure.

Along with Lincoln Equities' Hallets Point project, Alma Realty's 1,000,000-square-foot set of five residential buildings, a school, a park, a supermarket and storefronts would transform an underused strip of the Hallets Point peninsula on the East River. But at a zoning committee meeting last week residents voiced concerns that the full board would vote with little details on the affordable housing plan. The committee returned armed with a four page list of conditions on which the full board was given a vote of either all or nothing.

Other conditions regarding the affordable housing (there were 10) include that the units "accommodate low, moderate and middle-income individuals AND families," (capitalization theirs), but didn't specify income in dollar figures. At least one of those conditions, that the affordable units "be dispersed throughout all five buildings in the project," echoed one aspect that Howard Weiss, an attorney representing Alma, said at last week's meeting was already on the table. "Many of the conditions already are being satisfied," said Weiss in an email, after leaving quickly after the vote.

The board also called for a medical center, methods to reduce traffic impacts of construction such as barging materials, ferry service, and an evacuation plan. (Evacuate via ferry?) Last year the city agreed to conduct a $500,000 study to see if a ferry could ease trips between Manhattan and the site, currently a one-mile hike from the nearest subway. In case a ferry station is built, the board also calls for a special permit application to be filed for the site's (car) parking—a condition separate from the list of parking conditions.

In the jobs arena, one condition prompted cheers from a yellow t-shirted crowd with Build Up NYC, a nonprofit job advocacy group that works with unions. The condition would give priority to neighborhood locals and youth in employment during both construction and the lifetime of Cove, including in the storefronts. Meanwhile Jessica Ramos, a spokeswoman for Build Up NYC said she hopes "Alma Realty comes to the table" to craft a contract.

Ramos added that even with a set of environmental recommendations, the board didn't ask for an inspection for toxic materials on the site. "In light of the fact that a public school is a part of this, you should take special care and attention to make sure any remediation and abatement that needs to happen is done in a responsible way."

Whatever happens next, it looks like Alma will commit the next decade to putting this thing together. Weiss said in his email, "We are confident in the approval of Astoria Cove and the development of a project that will benefit the entire community."

UPDATE: This story previously reported that the board approved the plan, but that is incorrect. The board voted to approve the 47 conditions, but deny the plan as is. Curbed regrets the error.
—Shannon Ayala
· Astoria Megaproject Has Residents Scared About Affordability [Curbed]
· Astoria Cove coverage [Curbed]